Strong Island Co.

Make and The Craft Kitchen

You may remember that last year boutique craft store Make which was based on Albert Road moved home to a bigger and better premises in Fratton. Due to high demand for classes and a serious lack of space, owner Nicky decided to start searching for a larger shop. On an island city such as ours space really is at a premium and the hope of finding such a place in Southsea proved fruitless.

Fortunately, a retail space became available in Fratton which had a history of textile retail and plenty of room for learning, crafting and socialising. By this time Nicky had decided to join forces with Hesta who dreamed of having a cafe and functional kitchen which would allow her to teach baking and cooking skills. After much waiting, and some serious hard work refurbishing the building, Make and The Craft Kitchen opened its doors late last year.

The space is large, inviting and multi-purpose. With an excellent retail selection of fabric, yarn, paper crafts and haberdashery alongside a cafe serving breakfasts, lunches and homemade cakes. There is also a young children’s play area where babies and toddlers can play safely whilst parents and carers sit with a tea and maybe a craft project.

I feel that Make is more than a shop; it is a social community space which is already being accessed by various local groups and benefiting the people around it.

I spoke to Nicky and Hesta and asked them how they’re settling into the local area. They said that the Fratton Traders Association are working together to attract more visitors to the area which recently benefitted from a National Lottery grant. Nicky mentioned that in many cases businesses and individuals from the creative industries have moved into struggling areas and really helped to improve things (projects that may be of interest such as New York’s High Line or areas of London like Peckham and its Bussey Building). The statistics do support that these changes do indeed occur, take a look at this Financial Times article for proof.

Another benefit is that the mezzanine floor of the building offers an affordable studio space for artists, designers and makers. The studio is currently my home (Ooh la Lapin) and also that of illustrator Roma-May Daly of Roma May Design. There is currently space available to rent so get in touch if you are looking for a creative studio space.

It is hoped that Make and The Craft Kitchen will encourage other creatives and businesses to make Fratton their home. There are lots of events to look forward to this year including a Spring Make Off competition, exhibitions, talks, workshops and much more.

You can find Make and The Craft Kitchen on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


Southsea Sisters Relaunch Q&A with Cheryl Buggy.

Back in 2012 a band of local women headed up by the ever resourceful and talented Naomi Thompson formed the Southsea Sisters. Sadly due to work and life commitments the group went on hiatus but now it’s back with a fabulous relaunch.

The Naval Museum are giving us a free room and a free tour of their new gallery.

HMS ‘Hear My Story’ and ‘Racing to War: The Royal Navy and 1914’

See the new 20th Century Gallery, discover the many personal accounts over 7 generations that tell the Royal Navy’s story in war and peace since 1900 up to the present day. See the gun that fired the first British shot of WW1, the special exhibition “racing to War” which tells of the arms race before 1914 and the part the Navy played in the opening months of the fighting.

Cheryl Buggy will be attending and giving a special Q & A session for the ladies. Cheryl is former teacher, Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, a published author, founder of Express FM and has worked for the BBC and Classic FM. She also delivers lectures and workshops. So it will be a great opportunity to be inspired by this incredible women, meet new friends and be part of a supportive network of females.

Arrive at the Historic Dockyard Visitors Centre at 11am, Sunday 28th September. The tour and session will finish at 12.30pm.

You can join the Facebook event here.


Sketch Crawl

I am genuinely pleased to see how strong and vibrant our creative community is becoming. It always seems to be shifting and growing in such a natural way. There seems to be more and more ways in which we can all participate. So when I got an invite to join ‘Sketch Crawl’ I again was reminded of how awesome our community is for its DIY and ‘all welcome’ attitude.

Sketch Crawl was created by local water colourist and urban sketcher Chris Webb.

Our first group sketch crawl. Meet at Manna Tea Rooms for a coffee or cup of tea then we shall move across the road to the Cathedral and then down to the Old Spice Island. Bring sketch/watercolour pad, pens, pencils and water for travel paints and finally refreshments and a portable seat or towel to sit on.

So come along on Saturday 16th August 2-5pm and meet at Manna Tearooms, 39 High Street, Old Portsmouth. All abilities are welcome and you can join the Facebook event for Sketch Crawl here.

Doggers of Portsea

‘Doggers of Portsea’ is a photography project and census of dogs and their owners on Portsea Island by Josh Knill. Josh intends to document as many dogs and owners as possible to create a visual record of dog ownership on the island.

‘I am a dog lover and own two dogs myself (Lola a yorkie/spaniel cross and Margot a miniature dachshund) whilst out walking with them I would often wonder what draws people to own a certain breed? How did they choose the dog’s name? The photographic study will culminate in an exhibition of the images, alongside info graphics showing most popular breeds, names, location and owners age. Perhaps a correlation or pattern will emerge? A book will also be published containing the portraits and information.’

If you and your furry friend are interested in taking part in the project and having your portrait shot for free by Josh you can email him at or you may happen upon him whilst walking your canine companion.

For more information on Josh and to see more of his work you can visit

In Conversation with Ian Nicholson

Earlier this week you may have read about ‘Tender Loving Care’, a new play by Vickie Donoghue and Portsmouth theatre company Old Salt. A few weeks ago I caught up with the plays’ director Ian Nicholson in craft ale pub The Brewhouse next door to The New Theatre Royal where preperations were underway for the play. We discussed everything from Ian’s intriguing background and training to why it’s so important to develop creativity in Portsmouth and keep it here.

As Ian arrives to meet me next door to the theatre in the warm and relaxed Brewhouse it’s hard to not to be warmed by his bright smile and even brighter yellow coat. I’d first met Ian a few days earlier on a photo shoot for the productions’ poster at Old Portsmouth’s Hot Walls. I was intrigued to learn what draws successful creatives back to Portsmouth after leaving it for opportunities in London or further afield. ‘After graduating I studied a Masters at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama’ says Ian as I enquire about his education and training, ‘after that I went off to France to train as a clown’.

This was something I didn’t expect to hear. It’s hard not to smile as Ian talks about this transition to clowning, something that inspired his first play The Last March which tells the tragic story of Captain Scott’s doomed expedition to the South Pole. ‘There is something funny and tragic about Scott’s expedition, they took a piano with them and other useless items; it was doomed.’

Photo by Josh Knill.

Ian has spent several years involved with youth theatre and working with young people at the Stafford Gatehouse before he set up Tinder Theatre which subsequently became Old Salt Theatre. So what drew Ian back to produce work in Portsmouth as he currently divides his time between here and London, where he is very successful? ‘Portsmouth feels like home but it feels like there are lots of stories waiting to be told.” Ian extolls, his passion unflinching, “I want to invite writers here, take them round the city and see how it inspires them.”

Drawing on his experience of working on youth productions, Ian recognises the essential role children play in telling the citys’ stories, “It’s also important to get families involved, especially children as workshops in schools are a great way for children to see how a play is made. People move away to London or elsewhere but we should make art in the city, for the city.’ We carry on talking enthusiastically about the importance of culture in Portsmouth and move onto Ian’s current play Tender Loving Care which opens in June. Using D-Day as the back drop to tell the story of women in wartime, the production utilises a predominantly female cast. Inspired by Ian’s grandmother who worked as a clerk in the Portsmouth Dockyard during WW2, the play has an exceptionally personal connection to him and Portsmouth.

Ian’s passion is real, he doesn’t simply preach about how we should create new creative work for Portsmouth, he is actively doing it. It’s not always easy and I admire his determination and obvious affection for his hometown. Tender Loving Care runs from the June 4th to 21st at The Square Tower. You can book tickets here.

In Photos: Record Store Day & The Castle Rd Easter Fete

Last Friday and Saturday saw the closure of Castle Rd and the return of its’ now familiar Fete, bringing over twenty of the cities’ finest independent traders together in celebration of  the much loved road. Coinciding with Pie & Vinyl’s Record Store Day celebrations, the two days featured live music performances from both national and local level musicians namely Young Knives, Emily Barker, The Boy I Used To Be, Matt Jarvis, Common Tongues, Fugitive Orchestra and Billy Vincent spread across two stages.

Sweetie Pie & Ooh la Lapin joint stall.

Young Knives on the Clocktower stage.

Rolling off the success of the Christmas Fair, shop fronts and restaurants spilled out onto the street providing everything from food and drinks to handmade items and vintage clothes – even the Bike Doctor was on hand for free cycle maintenance and advice. Recent additions to the road SHOP and 101 Reykjavik showed out in force with SHOP almost doubling its footprint out into the street and Reykjavik putting on a stage at the Common end of the road, alongside supplying a plentiful flow of their Icelandic white ale. If you’re a trader or maker looking to sell at the next fete, keep an eye on the Castle Rd website and register your interest soon as space is most definitely limited.

Thomas Dartnell of Young Knives keeping it weird.

Queue as of 8am on Record Store Day.

Pie & Vinyl saw more than 800 people through their door on Record Store Day with a handful of dedicated fans going as far as camping out from 5pm the previous evening to secure a spot at the front of the line. Free tea and coffee was kindly on hand for the first 100 attendees, although this number had been already far exceeded by the time we joined the queue at 7:30am. The hour and a half we spent in line passed quickly, albeit slightly chilly, helped along by the constant friendly conversations invariably started with, “So what are you hoping to get?”. Over 200 carefully curated records awaited the throngs of music lovers ranging from brand new releases to re-pressings of classic albums, many being limited Record Store Day editions. Pies weren’t saved from the celebrations either with pastry-based homages to Sub Pop and Pias served up with merch from their respective labels. Congratulations to the team at Pie & Vinyl for such a successful RSD event and thank you to everyone who turned out for supporting your local record store!

Hot beverage deliveries.

The Pie & Vinyl team post-RSD.

Emily Barker on Saturday afternoon.


Sweetie Pie Valentine’s Day Giveaway.

Those of you with a sweet tooth, may remember that over Christmas, Strong Island joined up with Sweetie Pie Bakery of Southsea, for an exclusive 10% discount on all their Sweet Pies, Cookies and Slices. As you may remember from our previous posts, Sweetie Pie specialise in baking sweet pies, cookies and slices, all of which are 100% gluten free. To celebrate Valentine’s Day, Sweetie Pie have created their own “You’re My Cherry Pie” Valentine’s day special addition to the Sweetie Pie Menu.

“Our new You’re My Cherry Pie, is a soft almond crust, filled with a sweet cherry and pecan filling, topped with coconut cream and crispy pastry lid”

We’ve also heard on the cherry vine that these delicious gluten-free vegan creations will also be added to the Southsea Pie & Vinyl menu for those romantic couples who have booked a table for the stores Van Halens-tines day coming up. To book a romantic table, email: or call the store on 02392 753914.

The team at Sweetie Pie Bakery have also decided to give away 2 of their 4″ fluted You’re My Cherry Pies to one lucky couple or a sweet toothed singleton. To enter on Facebook simply “Like” the Sweetie Pie Bakery Facebook page and just share the image with tags #sweetiepiesouthsea AND #sweetiepievalentine. To enter via Instagram simply follow on instagram @sweetiepiesouthsea and share the competition image and tag #sweetiepievalentine.

To place any orders, simply email or for information on ordering in time for Valentine’s Day and all other Sweetie Pie bakes visit their Facebook Gallery at for price lists and a list of all their other products.

Valentines Giveaway Image to share

2 inch mini cherry

Close up Cut Open

Make is 1

It’s always good to see local businesses thriving and Make on Albert Road has been a real success story. Nicky the owner got in touch to tell us they are about to celebrate their first birthday.

Here at Make HQ we’d like to thank all our supporters/fans/friends by offering 10% off all our stock on the 7th Feb at 7pm, to help things along there will be a bit of wine and nibbles too, to celebrate Make’s first birthday. For all you vintage pattern lovers there will be over 600 patterns available on the night too, all £3 each!

They’re may even be cake!

If you haven’t visited Make before because you might think crafting is not your thing it will definitely change your perception. Make now stocks super hip, sustainable label Wool and the Gang which actually convinced my partner to learn to knit back in December.

Remember there are plenty of workshops you can attend to learn or improve skills all set in a welcoming environment that fosters creativity. Strong Island wishes you many happy years to come!

make876_n makebanner



The Strong Island Almanac Presents: Circolo Pizzeria

With Portsmouth awash with large chain pizza delivery places you tend to forget what ‘real pizza’ should taste and look like. At Circolo you won’t find a hotdog or tasteless plastic cheese stuffed in your crust but a light crisp handmade truly Italian dough. If that doesn’t inspire you then the relaxed, bright, modern vintage interior might persuade you to stay for awhile, grab a beer or coffee and order a slice of heaven!




Owner Gianni showed us round and talked about the interior design, pizza and his family’s history with the city.

 The interior was designed by myself. We were lucky that when we pulled off the old plasterboard and found underneath the original tiles from when it was a butchers in the 50’s we were on to a good start. People thought I was mad wanting to keep them but I’m glad I did! They were a great find as these sort of tiles were in keeping with the style I wanted to go for. With the furniture and fittings, I tend to collect a lot of different things and can’t resist buying things that I like or  think are designed well. So when I found the right location for the pizzeria I finally had somewhere to put all the pieces I’d collected. All the fixtures and fittings I have a bought over the years from vintage fairs, second hand shops, Ebay and the occasional auction. The marble work tops were saved from my grandads’ ice cream parlour he opened in the 30’s in  Guildhall Square. There is even a section dedicated to it in the Portsmouth Museum, so it was great to bring them back to life after years of being sat in the garden. There are still loads of peoples’ names engraved into the marble from all those years ago.






Tell us about your pizza?

The most important thing when making a pizza is the dough, which we make fresh everyday. Every pizza chef has a slightly different recipe for making dough. They are all very similar but everyone has a slight variation on the text book recipe. We all know what the Italians are like!

With pizza, as with all Italian food, less is more. We use fresh ingredients and as many Italian products as we can get hold of, which we get delivered everyday. By combining three or four simple but fresh ingredients you get a delightful end product. Unlike the big pizza chains where everything is frozen and loaded up with processed food.

The final thing that makes a great pizza is the oven. For an authentic Italian pizza you need a stone bake oven to get a beautiful crispy base. We imported ours from Italy. It cooks the pizzas beautifully.


 Verrechia’s in Guildhall Square. 14 October 1959.

What inspired you to open Circolo?

 I opened Circolo as have spent a lot of time in Italy as my mothers’ side of the family is Italian and I still have a lot of family who live there. My grandad came over from Italy before the war and opened Portsmouth’s first ice cream parlour and coffee shop Verrecchia’s, so I guess it is in the blood! In Italy, there are pizzerias everywhere.  You can go grab a quick pizza and a beer or even just a slice; I really enjoyed that when I lived there and missed not being able to do that in Portsmouth. I thought the city was missing something like that, so when I found a good location I took the plunge and got to work.

Do you have any plans for the future?

Plans for the future?! Well it is early days but I would like to open another few places out of town but I must be mad as there is a lot of hard work and stress involved.




Circolo has a Facebook page which is updated regularly and is full of glowing reviews.

You will find them at 78 Osbourne Road and can contact them on 02392 349 079.









The Strong Island Almanac Presents: Truffles

Castle Road has enjoyed something of a renaissance recently, with successful street fairs and the expansion of Pie & Vinyl the road has reaffirmed itself as one of Southsea’s most treasured locations.

The street is home to a number of eateries and cafe’s and it’s food culture seems to be coming into it’s own with something for everyone. From casual coffee stops, sandwiches, pies and now the reinvention of landmark bistro Truffles. The once dark and somewhat uninviting restaurant which has inhabited the same spot for decades is now under new ownership. The transformation is a thing of chic coastal beauty.

I caught up with the owner Dayne Hobbes who immediately made us feel relaxed with a coffee and a smile. As we sat down head chef Tim Trussler appeared with a basket of freshly baked bread and we began to discuss everything from interior design to Scandinavian baking.

Tell us about your journey? How did you come to own Truffles?

Truffles really is a family business, we’re all involved and between us have around 80 years experience in the restaurant business. I only moved to Southsea a year ago but first dreamed about having a restaurant on Castle Road ten years ago when we walked through here one day. I remember walking past thinking how much I’d like to own this place. It’s purely by word of mouth I came to own the restaurant. We’ve now been open 3 weeks!

Truffles has been completely renovated, talk us through the transformation?

The whole place has been completely opened up, we have re-used some of the original furniture and the kitchen required the most work. The kitchen is open onto the restaurant and Tim can easily communicate with front of house, keep an eye on what’s going on and also chat with customers. We sanded the dark wood floors to reveal light and bright boards, the walls are painted in Farrow and Ball which was a bit of a treat. The enormous mirror is a local purchase from Victoriana on Marmion Road. Overall the place has a relaxed coastal feel to reflect the locality.

How would you describe your menu, ingredients and wine selection?

We are British food with a French twist, our ingredients are sourced locally and our menu changes to reflect the seasons. Tim our chef trained under Gary Rhodes at Michelin starred Rhodes in the Square, London. Our seafood comes from Viviers and Johnson’s and as we are surrounded by the Hampshire countryside we get beautiful fresh game. We are very passionate about English wine and recommend Nyetimber a sparkling wine that easily rivals Champagne. We can match wines to your food and I do plan to have tastings (Dayne has a diploma from the Wine and Spirit education trust).

We enjoyed lunch which costs £9 for two courses or £12 for three courses. I have already booked in a birthday lunch in January and I can honestly say the food was wonderful and great value for money.

You can find more information, contact details and menus on the Truffles website.












Next »


Tearing Down The House – Roller Hockey Club

It has been on the cards for a while now but finally yesterday the old Roller Hockey Club House at Southsea Skatepark was torn down. It had become unstable and hadn’t been used for a while. I was lucky enough to gain entry back last year and took a few photographs. If anybody has any old photographs of the club house seen in better times then please let us know.

The Old Days - Roller Hockey Club
Free Art and Live Painting Event at Southsea Skatepark

Lots of exciting plans at the Skatepark so watch this space.

This photo of Cody taking a leap of faith form the club house roof has always been a winner in my book.

CHAOS – 20 years & out!

20 years!!!! That has to go in the books as Southsea longest running night? Give or take, most people you bump in to have been to a least one Chaos night, and most spent a grimy late one down the pier dancing like idiots and spilling Newcastle Brown all over the place. I’ve a lot of fond memories of the earlier days at Chaos, mostly after skating and sitting in the pub saying I’m not going. Not this week. Then 8 pints later jumping in a taxi…

If you have any stories or cool photos from Chaos we’d love to see them. Or even some of the old flyers. There have been some pretty interesting designs over the years. I’ll always remember the photo flyer of the kid on the dance floor with a girl and his ‘wandering hands’.

Jay Dunstan got in contact and had this to say:

“To coincide with our 20th Birthday on Saturday 26th November – we’re announcing that this will be the last ever “Chaos”.

Starting in 1991 at South Parade Pier, moving to the Wedgewood rooms in 2008 – we’ve been crowned the South Coasts longest running Independent Club night, winning The Guide Awards “Best club night”, “Best DJs” (x 2) and the promoters Ped & Jay being awarded a special award for contribution to the Portsmouth Music Scene. Chaos has provided Dj’s and club nights at Guilfest, Southsea Fest & Isle of Wight Festivals.

Having been a constant in our lives and the Portsmouth clubbing & music scene for 2 decades – Its been a very tough decision to stop the regular club night. But we feel that now is the best time to unplug the speakers for the last time.

Chaos was always quite literally about being ‘alternative’ – alternative in music policy, but also offering an alternative to the traditional and mainstream clubs. Our ethos was always simple – play music we liked, to people to we liked & do it prime time on a Saturday night 52 weeks a year!

Our feeling is that the current scene is very different now and although still loving every element of the gigs, festivals and guitars – a regular club night offering everything we did, now isn’t whats required. Clubbers will always want an alternative, but the music scene is now so split and venues, pubs & clubs are all competing for survival – we felt it was a good opportunity to step back, take a deep breath & raise a glass to rock n roll!

We want to thank everyone who has contributed to the success of Chaos over the last 20 years – venue managers, bar staff & door stewards – sound & light technicians – – street teams – performers & bands and of course the roll call of DJ’s past & present that have provided the soundtrack to so, so, so many silly, drunken and above all fun Saturday nights.

Hey ho, lets go!”

The 20th Birthday & Last EVER Chaos – Saturday 26th November 2011

Flyer: Chaos Flickr

Welcome to Southsea

Ian Parmiter recently found this photo at a sign makers on one of his many travels. A Facebook debate has already begun as to it’s original whereabouts. Any ideas?

The Doomsday Project

From 1984 to 1986 people, in particular school children, all got involved in collecting information on their local area to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the Doomsday Book by creating a new, updated, electronic version. The collected information became The Doomsday Project which was a collection of laserdiscs and special BBC computers. The country was broken down in to ‘D’ blocks with the data collection done mostly by schools, the information included text on local geography, history, legends and also more contemporary personal things such as favourite music, games, etc. As well as the text each block could also contain up to 3 photos. Many schools bought the discs and computers as a learning resource (the World Wide Web as a concept was still some years away).

A few days ago the BBC launched a new website where all of this previously difficult to access information (only a handful of working systems still exist) is now online and searchable. It’s an amazing glimpse in to Portsmouth and Southsea life in the early to mid 80s and there are some great images. The new website also allows you to upload new information and photos too.

If you are 38+ you may well have memories of being involved in the project in collecting and writing information. Personally I remember the day my group went out to a tiny village in Essex in the hot summer but instead of writing things we played near the river and weir. Oh well. Does anyone have any memories of taking part in the project? If so please add a comment, would love to hear people’s memories.

You can find out more about the original project on HERE and the BBC article and access the online version below:

Domesday Project


I’m not a BMXer and only cruised on my Raleigh Burner to get to skate spots when I was young, but i’ve always had huge admiration the those guys. They’re freakin’ nuts. I remember Freestylin’ mag when I was younger and would always have a flick through if I could. I loved the whole style thing surrounding BMXing in the 80’s. Mag wheels, crazy colour co-ordinated bikes and big attitude.

Well, you can relive all the that, at least to a visual extent, in the form of the Freestylin’ book. Some of you may have already seen this but may not know you can download the 158 page PDF here.

Go straight to page 106 for an article on Craig Campbell at Southsea Skatepark. Sick.

Amazing Vintage Naval Posters

I found these truly amazing posters on one of my many Flickr travels. All circa 1930s and all fantastic. Click the images for the direct links to Flickr.

HMS Vanguard (1960)

Man, these photos are pretty damn epic. Both show the HMS Vangaurd that went aground just feet away from alongside the Still & West and Spice Island in 1960.

“On 4 August 1960, when she was to be towed from Portsmouth to the breakers yard at Faslane, Scotland, the whole of the Southsea sea front was packed with people to see her off. As she was being towed towards the harbour entrance, she slewed across the harbour to the Still & West public house and went aground. She was eventually pulled off by tugs and finally made her exit from Portsmouth. Five days later she arrived at Faslane and by the spring of 1962 Vanguard ceased to exist, never having fired her guns in anger.” (from Wikipedia)

It’s also great to see that area of Old Portsmouth in detail from 50 years ago. There is no sea wall in place, some kind of out building on the corner of Spice Island, what looks like early dry dock developments and I love the way Broad Street goes straight in to the drink. See what you can see. Click the images for a much closer look.

Via : Jainbow

Portsmouth on Film – Episode 3

The next episode of Jonathan & Matthew Ring’s vintage family footage ‘Portsmouth on Film’ went up recently. This episode is of a round Portsmouth car journey back in 1998.

The Fog

Anyone who was out in Southsea and some surrounding areas would have witnessed the rolling fog that made it’s way inland this Sunday. Creeping past the Isle of Wight and finally making it’s way to the beach and taking people by total surprise. Hundreds of people were out having BBQs and generally enjoying the sun when all of a sudden things got weird when you could see your breath in the air and pockets of mist were passing right in front of your eyes. It’s rare to see this during day and normally only occurs first thing in the morning, so this was pretty cool to see.



Check out some more photos of “The Fog’ over on my Flickr Photostream.

Submarine Graveyard

Portsmouth’s Pounds scrapyard has been the final stop for the lives of many military vehicles over the years but most noticeable it has been the location for a submarine graveyard. So iconic was the sight of the submarines as you entered Portsmouth that they became the inspiration for the architect when designing the new swimming pool at the Mountbatten Centre.

Robin Hinson has a large collection of photos of the scrapped submarines here, with a few shown below.

Strong Island Clothing Co.